Patrick Cronin’s Foreign Policy piece on how the second Korean war could start (as the result of miscalculation and escalation, he says) is simply chilling. If anyone can be believed, it is Dr Cronin. He is the senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Centre for a New American Security in Washington, DC and just recently published a report ‘Vital Venture: Economic Engagement of North Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Complex’. Dr Cronin knows what he’s talking about.
Someone else who does is Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, but more importantly, a former career diplomat in South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Late on Thursday, Mr Ban said that North Korea had gone too far and nuclear threats were not a game. Clearly, despite his ethnicity and his former preoccupations on the Korean peninsula, Mr Ban is not sanguine. He does not regard it all as a mere bagatelle.
It is tempting as my old friend Simon Jenkins does in The Guardian, to see it all as no more than wind – just so much bellicosity and perhaps the flatulent result of Mr Kim recently watching Cold War films such as The Mouse That Roared.
But Dr Cronin is more persuasive by far. What if Kim Jong-un, a pudgy boy for all that he is 30 or thereabouts, sees it all as a reality video game? Wars can be triggered by miscalculation and “a peninsula-wide conflagration” could result, writes Dr Cronin. It could be “an action-reaction cycle that could spiral out of control if Pyongyang, running out of threats or low-level provocations, were to gamble on a more daring move.”
What if the mouse didn’t roar but scurried around in a way that just had to be dealt with?